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24 Famous Actresses of the 1940s

Updated May 7, 2021 159.8k views24 items

The 1940s was a great decade for film. Alfred Hitchcock was really coming into his own as the master of suspense and Frank Capra gave movie-goers a holiday film that would be loved even decades after its initial release. The actresses of the 1940s were often great beauties with endless talents that were able to thrive in the captivating roles of the day.

Who was the most popular actress of the 1940s? Gene Tierney tops our list. She made her feature film debut in 1940 and quickly became one of the era's greatest actresses. Many will recognize Ingrid Bergman, one of the most famous 1940s female movie stars, for her role in Casablanca in 1942. 

Ava Gardner stole hearts in the 1946 film The Killers, which propelled her into super-stardom. Greer Garson was by far one of the most popular actresses of the 1940s. During that decade she was nominated for an Oscar a record-setting five years in a row, taking home a statue for her performance in the 1942 film Mrs. Miniver.

Scroll on below to learn a bit about these beloved 1940s starlets. 

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Gene Tierney made her feature film debut in 1940, and quickly became one of the era's greatest actresses. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the 1945 film Leave Her to Heaven.

    • Credits (Film): Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Night and the City, Leave Her to Heaven, The Razor's Edge
    • Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
    • Age: Dec. at 71 (1920-1991)

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  • Photo: Unknown publicity photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Though she really came into her own in the 1950s and 1960s, Natalie Wood made her feature film debut as a child in the 1940s. Who could resist her sweet innocence as Susan Walker in the classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street (1947)?

    • Credits (Film): West Side Story, The Searchers, Rebel Without a Cause, Miracle on 34th Street, Splendor in the Grass
    • Birthplace: San Francisco, California, USA
    • Age: Dec. at 43 (1938-1981)

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  • Photo: Young Man with a Horn / Warner Bros.

    Known for her husky voice and lovely locks, Lauren Bacall's 70-year acting career started in the 1940s. She appeared in several memorable films including The Big Sleep in 1946 and Key Largo in 1948. She appeared in four movies with her husband Humphrey Bogart.

    • Credits (Film): Misery, The Big Sleep, Murder on the Orient Express, The Shootist, To Have and Have Not
    • Birthplace: New York, New York, USA
    • Age: Dec. at 90 (1924-2014)

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  • Photo: Featureflash / Shutterstock
    Elizabeth Taylor started her career as a child star at MGM in the 1940s. During that time she appeared in such films as The White Cliffs of Dover and Little Women.
    • Credits (Film): Cleopatra, National Velvet, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Flintstones, Giant
    • Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England, UK
    • Age: Dec. at 79 (1932-2011)

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